Are tolls for revenue, or are they for our roads?
In his address to officials going into the recent public hearing about the re-emergence of tolls on the state’s highways, Gov. Ned Lamont was summed up this way: “the state needs reliable revenue and not more borrowing.” In other words, while the (if we may be permitted to use philosophical terms) “accident” is the state’s infrastructure, the “essence” is revenue. Or to make it more prosaic, the state’s pols are using infrastructure as a way to dig deeper in residents’ pockets.
As we said in these pages a few weeks back, no one is arguing the state’s roads and bridges are in terrible shape, the argument is with the idea more revenue is needed to do the job. When the Mianus River Bridge collapsed more than 30 years ago, a hike in state use taxes, particularly gasoline, was imposed for infrastructure. For the last three decades one can travel the roads and bridges of the state and there are “road work” signs everywhere. One would think with the work being done, the roads and bridges were being handled, but such is not the case. Why?
The reason is that the use taxes that were imposed so many years ago, have been coopted by the General Assembly and used to fund other things. Much like it did with the state lottery almost a half-century past, the money there was to go to education, but only after it passed through the General Fund – the only type of “trickle down” Democrats like.
But the argument the state needs “reliable revenue” was used in the past as well. Pro-income tax supporters in the early 1990s as well as former Gov. Lowell Weicker used the same arguments to impose the income tax. It was to eliminate the yearly or bi-yearly squabbles for revenue. The state would have a good idea of how much money would come into the coffers and budget accordingly. How is that working out?
In the past 27 years since the state imposed the tax along with biennial budgeting, the state has run as many deficits as it did before, when sales taxes and other taxes were used as the sole generators of revenue. There was also a two-percent cap put into place – a cap that was never real because the assembly was allowed to override it for “cause.” “Cause” happened every budget cycle.
So, what we have is another money-grab by state Democrats because they were unable to live within our means. We are the ones paying the ever-increasing taxes, and we are the ones who get no relief because the assembly will not make cuts.
This latest attempt to add tolls is branded as a way to make the state more competitive. When has another tax made a state more competitive? States with lower taxes and more realistic spending are the ones that are competitive. While much of the toll money will come from out-of-state sources, much will come from already-strapped state residents who are nickled-and-dimed to death by a legislature that will not do the hard task of downsizing.
Connecticut will not be helped by the tolls. It will be hurt by the tolls, seen as another tax. The residents of the state, particularly those in the lower and middle class will be hurt the most because they will be paying more to idle for hours on the state’s highways.
The General Assembly is made up of a Democratic majority that cowers at the thought of less spending. This new revenue source, should it pass, will forestall that yellow streak at least for a time.